Ultimate Guide – How to handle stress – 4 Key takeaways
Hi, it’s Dr Ro speaking to you from Byron Bay in Australia.
So, today I’d like to address stress and how to handle it.
I’ve got four tips for you. And I thought they would be really appropriate because I’m in Byron Bay, which is one of the most relaxing places you can be. I’m surrounded by meditation centers, yoga centers, organic food stores, and holistic people everywhere.
So I thought I would do a quick video and blog post for you about stress. Get out a pen and paper if you can.
Number one – how to handle stress.
See the situation that you’re in, no worse than it is, no better than it is. Just as it is. Focus on exactly how the situation is.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. One of the things I’ve learned to do over the years, through interventions, mentoring, and coaching, is to assess the situation exactly how it is. The worst thing you can do is to work yourself up by focusing on the worst-case scenario.
No matter what your circumstances are, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t blow your situation out of proportion.
For example, when people say, “Oh my gosh I’m getting really stressed at the moment because my boss has told me I need to do X, Y, and Z by Friday, and if I don’t then there’s the threat that they might even be kicking me out the company or I might not get the promotion I was thinking about.”, and they start to go into this really over exaggerated state.
This type of thinking could be endless. So, don’t see your situation any worse than it is.
Instead, take a deep breath and in your mind just look at it in black and white.
Number two – how to handle stress.
Take a piece of paper or a journal, and a pen. Ideally a pen not a pencil.
And literally write down what the current situation is that you’re in.
What is causing you stress?
Put this cause on the top of the piece of paper. I wouldn’t even do a big description to start with, just simply list out all the different things that you feel are causing you stress.
It could be, “I’m getting a lot of pressure at work.” or “I’ve got challenges in my relationship.” or “I’m not feeling very healthy.”
This step is about capturing it and putting it down on a piece of paper. Ideally, I’d like to do things in journals and if it is at all possible doing it with an ink pen, so that it is actually there. The trouble with pencils is people can rub them out. So, if you can do this in a way that you’re listing in a permanent way, so you can reflect back on it, that’s great.
Why do we do this exercise?
What I found working with people individually is that often their anxiety is all built up in their head. The stress is building up and they’re trying to juggle everything internally.
There was a very famous study done years ago that found the human brain can only really consciously process seven things in its sphere of influence, and beyond that it gets very, very confused. In fact, you can really only focus on one thing.
Typically we get stressed by whatever is in front of us, and if there are several things in front of us, we start to flip between all them and then of course we feel overwhelm. And overwhelm is the biggest cause of stress.
Getting it on paper and writing it out gives you a chance to look at go okay, this is the situation as it stands.
Next, write out the details of your stress in bullet points. I wouldn’t go into too much detail. Keep it simple.
Okay, so what is number three?
Number three – how to handle stress
Number three is now taking the time to write a quick description underneath each bullet point, so you can see it visually and you’re unloading it. You’re venting it, getting it out, like you’re talking to somebody. You’re telling somebody about it.
And you get the description of that ideally into a paragraph. Really describe the key elements of your stress. Don’t over embellish it. Don’t make it too fancy.
For example, you say – I need to do these three items by Friday. The current situation is that my boss has told me he wants me to do it because it’s going to help with project X. The reason he wants me to do it is because I need to prove myself, and he is also keen to support me in my promotion.
That could be the situation in a blank statement. It doesn’t need to be anymore. Not , “and if I don’t, I’m going to get this, I’m not going to get the promotion, the house, the holidays, probably won’t see the kids.” And all those things. No it is just a clean blank description.
I want you to do that for every single one of your bullet points. When you do this, it does need to be detailed, but it doesn’t need to be so detailed that you get stressed about it. Just put in only the activities that you can influence and that you need to do, and nothing else. Just the things that you need to do in that situation or if it’s a situation that involves interacting with another human being, or a stressful situation with a member of your family. Describe that and who needs to be involved in that particular situation.
Number four – how to handle stress
Part of the challenge you have when dealing with stress is that most of the time you think you have to do everything yourself. So, I’m going to give you two very important things to note here on number four, what have we learned so far?
We haven’t seen it worse that it is or better than it is, we are just seeing it in our mind as it is. That’s important, so we do that as an emotional exercise, then we bullet point out the key things. So, we list out just the things right now that are causing us the biggest cause of stress.
What’s on my mind?
What I believe is causing me the greatest amount of stress.
Number three is you’re going to do a clean clinical detail, but not overly analytical description of the situation factually as it is. What you’ll find when you do that process is you’ll start to go, “okay, so this is actually it.” And in some cases, you look at it and you go, “this isn’t quite as bad as I thought it was.”
Or it might appear to be worse than it is. But most of the time by capturing it on paper and doing this exercise, albeit it might take half an hour or so to do, what you’ll find is you go right okay so what have I really been worrying about here? And you’ll find your eyes gravitate to the areas that you think are causing you the most stress.
I suggest you look at that list of items and your paragraphed descriptions, and I want you to number them in order of which ones are causing you the most stress at the moment. You’re probably going to find there are one to three areas, or one to three activities, one to three situations right now that are causing you the most distress.
Next, I want you to write down who can you speak to that can be involved in helping you with this. Let me say that again. There’s always a big who, that is one of the first things I ask anybody that’s in a stressful situation. I ask who can be involved, who’s one person you can speak to that can actually help with this particular situation.
In doing that, it’s a chance to share the load, release some pressure, and the question then behind that is what can you ask them to do?
So, who can be involved in this particular situation and what can you ask them to do?
And the third element, if you want to add one more element to that is to consider what is the first thing you can do to move that situation forward to relieve some pressure?
That’s my process for destressing.
Right let me recap, so it’s see it as it is not worse than it is, not better than it is, just purely as is. List out all the different things that you’re currently involved with that are causing distress, a simple list. And make it short not big descriptions, just a sentence, one line, even a word or two words, or a project name. Then, you’re going to describe it in detail, but not too detailed so you feel stressed about it. Factual and that’s it, not emotional.
And the fourth thing is, who can be involved to help you, who can you talk to, to release some of the pressure. Finally, consider, what can you do? What’s one activity you can do to start to move you towards de-stressing, but getting a result in that particular situation?
Right, that’s all I’m going to talk about for now, that’s Dr Ro signing out.
Hopefully that was useful. I’m going to go and see if I can find these bush wallabies and go to the beach. Take care and destress.
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